Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


By Kristi Paxton

I should be leaving the house Now. Windows are open. Birds are singing, and my husband is still snoozing on my watermelon couch (He says it’s pink, but it’s not) with my white quilt and my dog at his feet. Same place I found him upon my return from our writers workshop yesterday. We bored our way into oblivion last night with the screen flickering colors across our skin. Peaceful.

When I  drove down our lane after  workshop, I saw the first purple phlox In bloom in my “other people’s garden,” the spot I claimed back from the woods and crammed with reject plants pulled from plots belonging to more organized gardeners. The purple phlox argues with the pink and orange lilies, and they give in. Together they are perfect, dissonant as a chord in a jazzy song. I can’t remember the song’s name, but I’ll think of it.

For Now my brain is tired and full of all the stuff a writer must do and remember. Blog, Facebook, find an agent, beg your way into publishing, and write the ”thang.” Really, all I want to do is write. And so I do, and mostly it’s aimless joy. Now.

After only one day at workshop, I’m the cartoon character. You know, the famous one (cat?) who is in danger and sweating bullets, literal droplets or bullets pouring from his watering can skin. Only pages of words are pouring from my skin holes. A hard knot takes the place that once held my heart. This too will pass.

Today after another workshop day, I’ll drive down the lane again. Maybe the white lily will be in bloom, the one I forgot to plant last fall. I’d found it this May in its overturned plastic pot back by the barn. There was a bit of green showing, so I plopped it into a leftover clay vessel.

And I’ll climb onto my watermelon couch and heal once more. I’ll get up in the morning to write, and I’ll be late to workshop again.

Will another flower surprise me again at the end of the day?

And repeat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


By Kristi Paxton
June 15, Nic Wallenda walked a tightrope suspended across the widest part of Niagara Falls. An historic moment. Each step he understood the concept of Now.
The biggest trouble of our times is that we are never where we are,” said a writer friend a while back. For a moment I wondered what he meant. Then I regretted eating the entire container of *salted caramel gelato, simultaneously dreading the dirty house I must clean…soon. I understood his comment.

We are masters at regret—thinking about the past, the splurge, the nasty comment. Another writer friend recently landed on the Dr. Phil show with his wildly popular book titled “Secret Regrets.” Out of several blogs Kevin Hansen launched, Secret Regrets was the one that touched a collective nerve. We all think back to what we should not have done. Think back.

And, we are excellent at planning our futures. To the right of this keyboard is a pile of lists, (I just thumbed through and counted nine ratty pages) tasks I want to complete, books I want to read, blogs I want to visit or create in the future. Many of my listed items are outdated events now, unaccomplished goals. Perhaps I should make another list: stuff I did not accomplish. Most of my future plans can now go into my heaping pile of regrets.

But am I good at embracing The Now? Not so much, but I’m getting better. After a recent trip to the honking chaos of New York City, my husband and I enjoyed the pastoral drive from airport to front door. We parked the car at the end of our lane, got out and paused to breathe Iowa air. Suitcase in hand, I said to my husband, “Look at that butterfly, how he’s spread flat on the leaf!” He was as if mounted in a collection. We both dropped our bags, he digging for a camera, I powering up my cell phone. For 15 minutes, the butterfly waited while we enjoyed his stillness and snapped his portrait. Obviously the winged creature was dead. But no. As soon as we put the cameras away, he fluttered up and away.

When asked what he thought about as he walked across Niagara Falls, Nic Wallenda said, “a lot of praying, that’s for sure.”
*Note: Salted Caramel Gelato; Talenti Brand; Hy-Vee; expensive. And you’re welcome.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hard Hats, Soft Hearts

By Lori Boruff

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11  NIV

Oh no, not THIS scripture again!

In the midst of financial crisis, health issues, broken relationships and dead dreams—this verse pops up again?

Plans to prosper me? I'm not seeing it.

Plans to NOT harm me—right when I'm feeling the worst persecution and emotional pain in my life.

Plans to give me hope and a future? I need help now!

Today, you may be living in the midst of fear and uncertainty. God KNOWS the plan designed for you. He's not guessing or wishing the best for you. He is certain of a way to bless you.

The Lord also knows you will have trouble this side of heaven. He gives specific instructions to help you thrive as His perfect plan—and perfect timing—unfold. God desires His people to be active, not passive during the tough times.

Prophet Jeremiah delivered this ancient text message from God to His people, once free in Jerusalem, now captive in Babylon. The people God loved lived in emotional, financial, and spiritual chaos—much like today.

Hard hats, soft hearts...

Jeremiah's God-inspired, timeless message told the exiles to build three things during their season of distress (verses 4-10). 

1.       Build homes and gardens—keep on living, working and watching with hope in your heart.

2.      Build relationships—seek a heart of gratitude. Cherish family and friends.

3.      Build your prayer life—pray for those in authority. Even if they are against you, ask God to give them prosperity and peace so that you receive those blessings also.

Unclench your fist. Relax your shoulders. Breathe. Build.

You do your part. God will do His. He is a promise keeper.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Daddying

By Robin Steinweg

A good dad—the world needs more of them. I was blessed to have a father who loved me, took care of me and my sister, and loved our mother. His job took him traveling so we only saw him on weekends, yet he was a great dad. Here are some of the qualities that made him—and can make you or a dad in your life—a good dad:










Funny, sense of humor



God-fearing (not scared, but awed)

Growing in Christ-likeness











If you’re not the best of dads yet, take heart. You can learn! These traits can be encouraged by the women in a dad’s life, too. My dad might not have thought of driving home a few hundred miles just to attend a concert or recital one of us was in, but Mom thought of it and told him it was important. Know what? It didn’t bother us that it wasn’t his idea—the important thing is, he did it. He was there.

Though Dad was away and then had lots to do around the house when he was home, when he spent time with us he threw himself into it whole-heartedly. Eye contact. No distractions. He made it seem like there wasn’t another person on earth, nor anything else more worth his time than us.

Be there. Happy Daddying!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Make Writing a Priority – Secrets Learned from Austin Boyd

By Kathryn Lang

Time keeps on slippin . . . slippin . . . slippin.

The song mentions time slipping into the future – I just want to know where my day went. I started out with the best intentions and even a schedule. Then time just kept on slipping and it was the end of the day.

Austin Boyd took chose to spend some of his time talking to newer writers at the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He said that to be a writer we had to write, so there had to be a moment when writing became the priority.

Time Budgeting Tips Learned from Austin Boyd

- Differentiate between the important and the urgent and then choose the important. Family is important. Writing is important. Taking the neighbor to the grocery would be urgent. Developing a filter to focus on the important will begin to reduce the time clutter issues in your life.

- Make a list of what you need to do. Go through the list and put the most important things at the top of the list. Review the list once again. Now exclude all of the small stuff at the bottom of the list. If you still have trouble figuring out how you will get it all done then reverse your thinking and start determining what you will not be done. In the end, you will have a list that you can accomplish.

- Schedule out the time stealers. Buy an egg timer that you can set for different amounts of time and then set it when you get involved with the internet, social media, games or the television. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, but take a determined break or you will look up and realize the day is spent.

- Set aside five minutes each day to brainstorm ideas. Be creative. Think outside the box. Now write down these ideas and keep them in a way that you can easily access them. As your time balances out, make room in the schedule to address these ideas one at a time and you will have the tools to keep the wheels turning in your writing.

One step at a time and you get there. Time will not keep slipping away if I keep it duct taped to the floor. I will determine how I spend my time and I will make each purchase worth its weight in gold.

Kathryn C. Lang writes words to inspire and encourage the hearts of others. You can purchase her inspirational books through Amazon or her website Her debut novel, RUN, follows the struggles of Sara as she discovers that you can only run from your past as long as you are willing to sacrifice your future. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer’s Beauty

By Jeannette Doran

In Iowa, the corn grows, and the fields green.  Summer’s beauty enfolds us in God’s love.  We breathe in our Creator’s presence which surrounds us.  By mid-July, the corn reaches to the sky straight and tall as it stretches for the light. After the long days of  relentless heat leave the land parched, the summer storms are welcomed with their streaks of lightning which stir up the necessary nitrogen to nourish the roots. The corn’s roots sink deep down searching for life-giving water and nourishment in the rich black Iowan soil.  The leafy stalks gain strength swaying in the wind.

Just as the light and rain storms grow and beautify the corn, so our souls need the light of God’s grace and waters of daily compassion.  As our Creator cares for the corn, we, too, are provided for abundantly.  All of creation grows in the balance of sunlight and darkness, summer’s heat and thunderstorms to water the parched land.  In our busy lives, we also thirst for intervals of deep silence and listening .  We crave the space to sink into that silence of our inner being to listen to the whisper of God’s presence, letting the light spill over the shadows of yesterday’s tears.   The warmth of God’s love intensifies our experience of our Creator, which deepens and expands as we spend more time in quiet prayer.

When we sit still in the warmth and light of the divine presence, we nurture a deeper confidence and intimacy with our Creator, who is always with us, calming our fears.  Light, warmth and rain storms are needed to cultivate the corn in summer, and we need the warmth, light and rains of the Holy Spirit to wash over and envelop us each moment.    God’s compassion is new each morning and is always there for us.  Take time to hold onto God who waits in silent spaces, and joy and peace will pervade your day.  Breathe in Jesus and breathe out mercy.  In contemplating the rich beauty of the cornfields in summer, recall the necessary stages of growth it has experienced along the way, and the care it has received. 

Believe in the divine tender love and mercy surrounding you.  Live in the consciousness of this tender presence through your own experience of God’s unconditional love for each one of us.   May we all grow in grace, washed in the Spirit and bathed in God’s everlasting and compassionate love.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The people of long ago are not remembered…

By Lisa Lickle

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
The people of long ago are not remembered… (vs. 11)

Walking through cemeteries is a favorite pastime of mine. As a historian, the gravestones call out to me, telling the story of who once breathed and walked and then died in this place. Sometimes the stories are poignant--drownings or illness taking whole families. I’m amused by the woman surrounded by her several husbands. Sometimes there’s an infant or elderly people who made their way across the sea to start a new life in a new place at an advanced age.

The care of these graves tell a story, too: who is left to remember? Are there flowers, bushes, flags, toys? Is the marker in good shape or faded and crumbling, maybe sunken or fallen? The people of long ago… I carry my thoughts on to who will remember me. What legacy will I leave? Even if there is truly nothing new under the sun, surely there is something precious to leave behind. Micah 6:8 teaches that God’s requirements are that we should act with justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. I want to be remembered for being that kind of person.

Things I can do:
Pick up that piece of garbage
Give a quarter at the checkout lane when the person in front of me is short
Let the other car in
Give the memories of my grandparents to my children
Take the single parent neighbor kids to church and shopping for Mother’s Day

Thank you, Father, for all those who walked before me, setting the example. Amen.

photo courtesy of, Larry and Linda Kopet

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Do you really hope so?

By Helen Knueven

The word, hope, has been diluted so much – that people say things like:

“I hope I win the lottery”

“I hope I marry a rich guy whose hobby is cooking.”

“I hope they know how lucky they are.”

(There is no confident expectation of these things.  They do not really express a true hope.)

We don’t expect to win the lottery – or marry some yacht-buyer.  Usually when someone says,   “I hope they know how lucky  they are”, it is prompted by an emotion.

We use the word so loosely – that we forget how powerful true hope can be.  It is used in a somewhat wishful thinking way – but real hope is powerful. 

God’s Word elevates the word, hope, to epic proportions.

Yet the hope that God gives us is so powerful – and holds within it a revolutionary patience.

From reading the scriptures below, my heart is encouraged in seeing that Hope is so powerful to the Christian that it comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  We cannot experience salvation without hope.  Indeed, our faith is built on hope, a confident expectation of God’s Word.

Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sins and has promised true believers salvation for eternity.– He is our great Hope!

I Timothy 1: 1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

I also love this scripture:

Romans 4:18  Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

We look at ourselves, and disqualify ourselves because of our own unworthiness, but against  hope we believe in hope because Jesus Christ has proved to be the One who came to save sinners, and not the righteous.

We need the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost to experience this hope.

Romans 15:13  Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

And lastly – Hope cleanses us, purifies us and readies us for the day of His appearing.

1 John 3:2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:3  And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.

This is the kind of hope that ushers us into His kingdom at the time of our death.

It is also the kind of hope that empowers us to live today.

Do you hope in Him?   

If not, know that God is ready to give you hope.

Jeremiah 29 13   And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Everyone is Afraid of Monsters

By Charis Seeley
Last April, I wrote a short story with a character called Ramsey who lives in a world where monsters are real and only your blanket will protect you when they prowl in the night. It turns out that Ramsey isn’t done with her story, so I’m happy to bring you the second part of her tale today. (Pssst, if you missed the first part, you can find it right here.

 Everyone is Afraid of Monsters

I killed my first monster when I was three, and Mother said we shouldn’t speak on it. But she couldn’t tell me what to think. My thoughts were all my own.

It was during my third year at the schoolhouse by the field of violets that I asked Teacher, “Where do monster come from?”

“From our closets!” Called a girl in my class named Gudytha.

Teacher, sitting at her desk, pulled off her spectacles and laid them on the cherry wood. She came around and faced the whole class. Her blanket, a raggedy thing that might have once been green but had turned grey with age, was folded neatly at the corner of her desk. I never saw her more than an arm’s reach away from that blanket.

She laced her fingers together and sighed. “The more you know, the more you’ll be afraid.”

From my desk, her shoulders seemed to curve up at the ends and I could see her nose hairs. She reminded me of a hawk that was always ready to take to the sky.

Teacher started again. “We have one story about where the monsters come from. At the end of world, over the great waters, balanced on the precipice—”

“What’s a precipice?” Asked Francine.

Fortune and Frideswide giggled on either side of her.

“Precipice means the edge of something,” Teacher answered. She cleared her throat. “Balanced on the precipice of the infinitely falling waterfalls that are the edge of the world, there is a cave. This cave winds down below the waters and into the darkness, where no fire can light the way. And at the bottom of the cave, there is a great green crystal.

“Children, when you wake up from a nightmare, and return to your sleep, and the nightmare is gone, that is because it has left you. When a nightmare leaves us, it flies away like smoke and goes to this cave. Nightmares have no eyes, so they have no need for fire to see by. When they reach the crystal, they go inside of it. More nightmares come and enter the crystal. When the crystal is full of nightmares, a monster is born.

“That is where monsters come from.”

I shot my hand up but I didn’t wait for her to look at me or call my name. “What if no one had nightmares?” I asked. “Would the monsters stop being born?”

Francine, Fortune and Frideswide all laughed.

“You can’t—” Francine said.

            “—get rid of—” Fortune said.

                        “—the monsters!” Frideswide said.

I remember looking at them and thinking that they were three heads of the same snake. Francine, Fortune and Frideswide were all pretty girls, and best friends. One of them was blonde, one brunette, and one red haired. But for all the salt I’m worth, I can’t remember which was which. It doesn’t really matter. You probably know girls like these. They were lovely and social, unlike me. Everyone wanted to be with them, unlike me. And, of course, they would date the sort of boys that a girl like me would haplessly fall in love with.

Teach quieted the trio. “They are correct, Ramsey. We can’t get rid of the monsters.”

“But I did! I killed one in my room when I was three.”

The whole class, except for a dark skinned boy name Oshbuert, erupted into laughter.

Ramsey!” Teacher spoke like a whip. “You must not lie like that. You will stay with me after class.”

“It’s not a lie!” I was young and couldn’t understand why she would think I had lied. “I tied it up with my blanket because I wasn’t afraid of it. It burned when the sun rose. I don’t want to hide from them.”

Teacher smacked the desk with her hand. “Ramsey! You will stop these lies and I am never to hear of you killing monsters again. Understand me? Everyone in this room is afraid of monsters. I am, your classmates are, and everyone you’ll ever meet cowers under their blankets at night. Fear is the natural order of life.”

I stopped objecting to her. In fact, I said less than a dozen sentences in that schoolhouse after she fed me that line about fear being the natural order.

At the end of the day, everyone put on their sun goggles and another boy showed off his new steam powered watch. The thing was brass and ornate and it took up half his arm and he wouldn’t stop repeating how expensive it had been and that his father hadn’t even cared. In the end, the boys tied their boots and the girls laced up their practice waist corsets, and everyone chattered on about what they would buy at the penny store on their way home.

But I remained at my desk, head hung. My hands cupped my face and I cried quietly. Maybe if I was silent and small enough, everyone would forget I was in trouble.  Maybe they would forget I ever existed at all.

A small dark hand appeared on my desk. Oshbuert. He had black hair and his eyes were the same shade of brown as the chocolate Mother had given me for my last birthday.

“Hi, Osh.” I wished he would leave me alone. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying.

“I… I just want to say that I wish I was brave like you.”

Fortune squealed behind us. “Did you hear that? Osh-BUTT has a girlfriend!”

I buried my head further as the class laughed and mocked him.

“Do you like her?”

“Do you love her?”

“Are you going to marry her and have little freak-brave babies?”

“She doesn’t even have pretty hair!”

I heard Osh’s footsteps as he ran out of the schoolhouse and our teasing schoolmates followed him.

I could have died from the shame. I wanted to curl up into myself, disappear, and be forgotten forever.

“Ramsey,” Teacher said gently.

I wiped my tears and a line of snot ran up my arm. She walked over and handed me a handkerchief. “Clean yourself up, dear.”

I did.

“Do you see the coal bucket by the steam heater?”

It was as big as I was and higher than my waist. It would have been a nice place to hide.

I nodded.

“There is more coal in the cellar.” She placed a much smaller bucket on my desk. “Fill up the large bucket, please. Then you may go.”

I picked up the smaller bucket and walked toward the cellar door.

“Don’t forget your blanket,” Teacher said.

I went back and grabbed it.

Teacher sat at her desk, hunched over our recent spelling tests. She used one finger to tap her own blanket. “We must always be ready to hide.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I descended down the creaky cellar steps. It was too dark to see the whole room, but I made out some old tables and chairs and a cog-work clock that ticked unevenly. There was one crack of light, coming from the hatch in the ceiling that led outside. The light revealed a giant pile of coal and a large gathering of dust at the side of the pile.

I picked up pieces of coal, one by one, and let them clatter to the bottom of my bucket. Teacher never said I had to do my task quietly.

The pile of dust moved.

I wasn’t sure it was real. I dropped another piece of coal into the bucket.

A pair of red eyes opened and stared at me. The dust shifted, gathered, and rose like a pillar. I grabbed my blanket and jumped onto the coal. “Monster!”

Two hands, blacker than death, reached for my neck.

“Monster in the cellar!” I yelled and continued to climb over the mountain of coal toward the hatch door that led outside. The monster entered the thin strip of light and a tiny flame appeared above it’s eyes.

The hands came closer and I wrapped my blanket around them.

Teacher screamed from halfway down the steps.

“Open the hatch,” I cried.

She disappeared back upstairs.

The monster came closer. A hole appeared below it’s eyes, a sort of mouth. It opened and then it opened wider. Wider and wider until it was the size of my torso.

I dropped to my knees and rolled to the side. The monster, still tied up in my blanket, fell with me. It’s evil red eyes looked up at the ceiling. I forced my arms into the coal and felt some of my skin rip on the jagged edges. The maneuver had wrapped my blanket around the monster’s neck.

The hatch opened and the cellar was flooded with sunlight. The monster burst into flames and I yanked my blanket away. The blaze was intense but short.

“Ramsey!” Teacher reached down for me. “The coal. Take my hand!”

I took her hand, but I studied where the monster had died. Nothing was left of it but black ash and red embers. But, no, as I look closer, the embers weren’t from the monster, it was the coal. The heat of the monster burning had set the coal on fire. Teacher latched onto my outstretched arms and pulled me up. I scrambled onto the grass and sat outside the schoolhouse, clutching my blanket and shaking, trying very hard to catch my breath.

Teacher sat with me. Beside us, the schoolhouse was already on fire. “You can’t get rid of all the monsters,” she said, her hands and blanket clutched above her heart. “There will always be more.”

I thought of the green crystal and the cave where all the nightmares went. “Maybe there doesn’t have to be.”